Malazan Reread of the Fallen

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Forge of Darkness, Chapter Three

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Welcome back to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda, and finally comments from Tor.com readers. Today we’re reading Forge of Darkness, Chapter Three.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing, but the summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

 

Forge of Darkness, Chapter Three

Summary

SCENE ONE
Korya Delath recalls how not too many years ago she would bring her dolls up into the Aerie at the top of the Jaghut tower she now lives in, brought there “as a child of Lesser House Delack, from the Tiste settlement called Abara.” She was given to Haut as hostage, though she now knows that “the Jaghut had not quite understood the Tiste tradition of giving and receiving hostages; certainly they had never sent one of their own children eastward.” Haut, instead, treated her as a pupil, not letting her outside the tower but doing all he could to educate her. From the tower she watches a group of Jheleck approach the tower, “padding forward like swollen dogs… nearly as big as warhorses.” They’re said to be related to the “Jheck of the far south, though purportedly much larger” and Haut has told her they are “possessors of a sorcery [known] as Soletaken,” though she doesn’t know what that means. She’s shocked to see Haut exit the tower wearing armor and a sword (rather than his usual “ratty, moth-eaten woolen robe”). Some sort of communication occurs, then Haut shocks her even more by laughing. The Jheleck veer from beast shape to warriors, and Haut yells up they have guests.

SCENE TWO
Korya wonders that Haut ever took her in, considering how the Jaghut (in general) “seemed perversely divisive and indifferent to such concepts as society or community.” This, she thinks, was a choice of theirs, since they once lived in an “unequalled” city, but then decided it was “all some kind of mistake… a belated recognition of economic suicide. The world was not infinite, and yet a population could aspire to become so; it could (and would) expand well beyond its own limits of sustainability, and would continue to do so until it collapsed.” Haut had told her “Words were no gift. They were tangled nets… choking [people] on their own arguments… The Jaghut had rejected that path. Defying the eternal plea for communication among people…they had stopped talking, even with each other. And their city was abandoned, home now ot a single soul, the Lord of Hate, the one who had laide bare the brutal truth of the future awaiting them all.” She is surprised when one of the Jheleck refers to Haut as “captain,” as they discuss her somewhat rudely, with Haut noting he’s never seen her temper, try as he had to spark it in her. She asks to be excused but Haut tells her not, as the Jheleck were here for her.

SCENE THREE
The Jheleck head, Rusk, tells Haut “without trust there can be no peace” and when Haut notes he already has peace, Rusk tells him “nothing lasts for ever.” Haut asks if the Jheleck learned nothing from losing to the Tiste and another Jheleck, Sagral, points out that Haut has no army like the Tiste; it’s gone. Haut notes the Jaghut never had an army: “We are Jaghut. Armies are anathema, and we have no taste for war. When facing fools who proclaim themselves our enemy, we simply destroy them.” He adds that the Jaghut have always pushed the Jheleck back each time they tested them, and when Sagral says they’ll come in larger numbers, Haut warns that simply means the Jaghut will no longer employ “restraint.” The reason for their visit finally comes clear when the Jheleck say they’ll bring Korya back to her home, but Haut explain that isn’t how hostage-giving works; they have to give the Tiste hostages from their own kind, not “borrow one from someone else.” When Sagral complains the Tiste aren’t offering hostages, Haut replies it’s because the Tiste won the war. Sagral tries to convince Korya to leave Haut, part of a race of “tusked fools… doomed to die out.” Korya though merely asks Rusk if his fellow “needs a leash,” and the ensuing laughter defuses the tension. Rusk tells Haut the Tiste are aksing for 50 hostages, but Rusk is concerned about the Tiste’s impending civil war. Haut seems unconvinced civil war will happen, but says even if it does, “the lives of hostages will remain sacrosanct.” The Jheleck don’t buy it, recalling their own civil war with their kin in the south. Haut discusses how the Jaghut Varandas (much to the Jheleck’s dismay) wrote about how the civil war made them two separate people and cultures, though he notes that Varandas burned all his writings “on the Night of the Dissension” since, “What value history when no one heeds it anyway?” In any case, he says Rusk should not presume to predict the Tiste based on what happened with the Jheleck, since “the power at the heart of Kharkanas is not the wild force of your Vitr-born Soletaken, and Mother Darkness made no bargain with beast gods.” Rusk avers the Jheleck will not give up 50 hostages, and Haut tells him that’s fine but will mean war, which will also serve to unite the Tiste. Told again he can’t have Korya, Rusk demands Haut lets her go, saying “You can do nothing more for her… the essence of her soul is dark, empty. It has no power. She is not a child of Mother Dark… for the darkness that dwells there [her soul] is not Kurald Galain. It is simply absence.” To Haut agrees, saying how “in the language of the Dog-Runners, I have fashioned a mahybe. A vessel” to be filled. He tells Rusk again they won’t have Korya, and when Rusk warns him he’ll regret it, Haut says one more threat and their host might rudely toss themout or worse, just kill them all. Rusk, pale, thanks him for the meal and leaves, promising that when they eat next in this tower it will be on Haut’s “snapped bones.” They leave.

SCENE FOUR
Haut tells Korya to go back to her room, warning her he’ll use Omtose Phellack tonight. Referring to his discussion of her as a vessel, she says she doesn’t feel empty herself; she doesn’t feel “at peace.” Haut though says he said nothing about peace: “In absence Korya, there is yearning.” Asked if she feels that, she agrees she does. He tells her the real lessons begin tomorrow — “My last task awaits us both, and we shall be worthy of it.”

SCENE FOUR
At the House of Delack, a “failing estate,” a carriage pulls up to the entrance near where Lady Nerys Drukorlat stands and a young Orfantal plays silly war games. Nerys thinks how her grandson will need proper guidance to lead their bloodline to its former glory, and how she would no longer have to hear him called “bastard.” She thinks how the great wars were over and the “sword-wielders’ time was past,” though she worries about the influence from all these veterans roaming the area “like abandoned dogs… spinning wild tales of bravery and then weeping over lost comrades,” how it was a poison to everyone, especially the young, who were so easily seduced by such tales.” Her own husband had returned a hero from the wars, but in less than a month had killed himself, though she confesses in her head: “He had arrived home already dead. No… it was she who was dead. To him. Out on those marches… he had fallen in love with the idea of her; that ageless perfect idea, and against that she could not compete.” It had been, as well, another soldier, one who’d lost an arm not in battle but to an angry horse, that had impregnated her daughter Sandalath and “stole from them all their future.” Nerys pays him now to keep in drink, away from her daughter and grandson. Sandalath steps out and interrupts her thoughts, but Nerys warns her against saying goodbye as it will create a scene. Sandalath complains she is too young to be hostage again, but Nerys says her last time (four years in length) was cut short, that “The House of Purake no longer exists as such [and] Mother Dark has taken Nimander’s sons for her own.” Sandalath begs to be sent back to them instead of sent to House Dracons, but Nerys tells her that way has “no political gain.” Sandalath’s escort, Ivis, arrives and Nerys commands Sandalath into the carriage and it heads off to meet the larger troop escort awaiting them in the village.

SCENE FIVE
Orfantal watches the carriage drive out, thinking he might have seen his mother’s face in the window, thinking of soldiers, wars, and hero, and how “death always caught up to everyone.”

SCENE SIX
Sandalath wonders if she really saw Orfantal as they drove away, or just imagined it. It’s smotheringly hot inside the carriage, but the windows are rusted shut and she doesn’t want to beg the carriage driver for help as it would add to the mocking village gossip about her “fallen House and its cursed, useless family.” She recalls her first hostage experience, the wealth, the excitement, how she had been “feted like a young queen” with Nimander’s three sons always nearby. How she had worshipped Anomander, whom she felt “like a vast wing, protective, curled round her.” She remembers the wars taking them away, and how Lord Nimander had returned “crippled and broken.” Her return to Abara had shocked her due to the “poverty of her home—the villae, the grand family house and its tired, tattered grounds.” Her father had died of a “septic war wound” (she’d been told) just before she’d returned, and her mother Nerys never spoke of him afterward. She thinks how Orfantal’s father had found her alone, isolated, and “taught her to open herself up” and how he’d come from a world of violence and adventure, “a world fo romance, where the brave stood firm… and honour held.” This was the world she’d related to Orfantal at night, telling him stories about his father and old tales as well, instead of the truth — the “ignominy of the discoveries about Galdan’s real past”, or how her mother had sent him away and how he’d died in the Jaghut’s land. Instead, she described Galdan to her son as a mix of Nimander’s sons, and told how he had supposedly died in a “great battled against the Soletaken Jheleck, an old feud with a man he’d once thought his friend, a betrayal, even as Galdan gave his life defending his wounded lord.” The heat inside gets worse, and she passes out.

SCENE SEVEN
Ivis gets her out and lays her on the ground to minister to her, thinking how if she died there’d be consequences for himself and his Lord Draconus. He begins to strip her of her heavy clothes and sends the coachman back, paying him to stay silent and threatening to return if he hears otherwise. He opens her locked chest, which he assumed held her other clothes, but instead finds it full of jars with stones from the shores of Dorssan Ryl –“stones of avowed love, they all carried a few, mostly from family and mates.” He wonders why so many as Sandalath comes to. He explains what happened and they wait for her to rouse a bit more. She notices he has her lockbox key, but he says he just took it so she could breathe easier, pretending they never opened up the chest.

SCENE EIGHT
Galdan had seen Sandalath go by in the carriage, and he thinks how she’s gone forever, how he never really deserved her, how his life is cursed and how “proper” men have two arms, how much he drinks, how much he gets laughed at, how it’s likely that all those river stones he’d left for her she’d probably just thrown out. He drinks some more.

SCENE NINE
Galar Baras thinks back on the Forulkan, how “generations of their priest, their Assail, had devoted entire lives to the creation of rules of law and civil conduct, to the imposition of peace in the name of order.” Galar, though, believes “they had taken hold of the sword from the wrong end. Peace did not serve order; order served peace, and when order became godlike, sacrosanct and inviolate, then the peace thus won became a prison, and those who sought their freedom became enemies to order, and in the eliminination of such enemies, peace was lost.” He sees their “solution” as an “order born of fear,” one always under assault by strangers, though he does note they deal with dissent quickly and effectively. He finds it ironic that the commander who had defeated the Forulkan is now so enamored of them. He recalls how the southern Borderswords had been the first to face the Forulkan when they invaded, how the cost had been staggering, though he takes some pride in how that had birthed the Hust Legion. The Hust weaponsmiths thought there was a “thread of fear… a vein of chaos” in every blade, which they called the “Heartline,” and they believed cutting it and “the weapon lost its fear of shattering. The forging of a weapon was devoted to strengthening that Heartline… folding… winding . . until the thread knuckled again and again… The Hust had given that Heartline a voice, taut with madness or overflowing flee, a sound both wondrous and terrible.” By the time the south Borderswords started to receive the special Hust blades, they were exhausted and “on the verge of dissolution,” though the Forulkan were already nearly defeated by Urusander’s Legion. He remembers the day of the Hust Resupply, the sounds of the weapons in their crates, and his own “horror” when he replaced his old blade with the new one, given him by Calat Hustain, a son of Hust Henerald himself. The smith had warned Galar it was a “jealous sword—the most powerful ones are, we have found,” then continued: “All iron has limits…I cannot guarantee that your new sword will not break… Yet should it eer break, captain, abandon not the sword. There are many knuckles in the Hearline, you see. Many.” Galar hadn’t known what the smith was talking about then—he’s since educated himself on Hust swords, and now thinks that “a miracle was buried in each blade… Hust swords were alive,” a belief shared by every soldier in the Hust Legion. Ursunder’s Legion, meanwhile, mock the Hust soldiers for that belief, while many Houseblades aer made nervous by the odd swords the Hust Legion carries.

Though not all, which is how he is riding to Hust Forge with Kellaras, commander of the Houseblades of Purake, as Anomander highly admired both the Hust Legion and the House of Hustain. Galar recalls how Rake’s soldiers had been the first to relieve the Borderswords, and how impressed Galar had been that the Lord had walked over to Toras Redone, the Bordersword commander (and Galar’s one-time lover), rather than just summon her to him. When Rake clasped her arm, Galar thinks, that day the Hust Legion became Andiian; “they too became Sons and Daughters of Night.” Unfortunately, it was also the seed of the “schism that would rupture the relationship between Urusander’s Legion and that of the Hust,” a rift that has only grown wider over time as Urusander’s Legion was disbanded and the Hust Legion has stayed together to guard the Hust mines. He wonders what Toras was doing now, with her husband, the same Calat Hustain that had given Galar his sword, commissioned as commander of the Wardens of the Outer Reach, north on the Plain of Glimmer Fate. He decides she probably won’t be at the Great House, since the mines were far to the south.

He worries that the split between Urusander’s Legion and the Hust Legion is just one of many signs of discord amongst the Tiste, with “even the beloved adoption of the title Andii… a source of contention,” alogn with the “growing power at the side of Mother Dark [that] none could predict.” While many think of Draconus as sinister, Galer thinks him “a man in a precarious position,” particularly now that people are talking of a political marriage to Urusander to “mend old wounds [and] head off civil war.” Rumor has it that Draconus is trying to ally with various Houses to prevent the marriage, but to Galar’s mind all the rumors seem to miss out on the fact that Mother Dark is her own power, and “she was not a submissive creature.” He sees her a living embodiment of the “Forulkan ideal of justice and order” and thinks “so long as she remained there would be no disorder, no chaos.” He thinks if the marriage goes through Draconus would do the honorable thing and just retire to his estate, yielding “to the will of the woman he loved” since Draconus was surely wise enough to know that “No one could escape sadness in their lives. No one could evade the pain of loss… [and] only a fool would invite civil strife.”

SCENE TEN
Riding beside Galar through the wasteland that was once a forest, Commander Kellaras is made more than a little nervous by the muttering from Galar’s sword (still in its scabbard). He wonders if the stories he’s heard from Urusander’s Legion vets are true, that the swords were cursed and bleed “poison into their wielders… a darkness… not as pure as among those who served Mother Dark… shot through with something sickly, as if infected with the chaos of Vitr.” Galar, Kellaras thinks, was a poor choice as liaison from the Hust Legion — “a man who had lost sight of joy and now stumbled in shadows… There was nothing garrulous here, and he could not imagine ever… seeking his company. As far as he knew, no one did.” He asks Galar why he insisted on coming, and Galar says it was simply to stretch his legs; as a former Bordersword he wanted to get out under the sky again.” When they reach the House and Galar is about to turn back, Kellaras takes pity on him and tells him he needs to come the whole way with him. Just as they enter, he adds, “Besides, have you no interest in seeing Lord Henarald’s expression when he learns that my master seeks to commission a sword?” Galar is shocked.

 

Bill’s Response

Note that careful use of “hostages” to describe Korya’s dolls, a nice little presaging of what we learn of her role here. I also like the analogy to the gods, given how we’ve seen so many in these books directly interfering.

Her fond recollection of childhood, with its endless summers with no rain, continues the thread we’ve had running through of better days past, as do her memories of large herds that no longer wander the land, gone extinct as so many others have one assumes. An image reinforced later on with the ride through the Hust once-upon-a-time forest.

One of the aspects of these first few scenes I really enjoy is the lack of true comprehension amongst these peoples. The Tiste giving hostages to the Jaghut, though the Jaghut don’t really get the purpose and so Haut just treats her like a resident student, and the Jheleck not getting the concept either—“wait, they want 50 of us? Can’t we just have yours?”

How strange it is to hear of a Jaghut: “if he possessed humor she’d yet to find it.” Of course, we’ll see soon enough he does have a sense of humor, as all good Jaghut do:

Is she a mute?

She’s never said as much.

Cracks me up every time.

Interesting to hear of Azathanai traders making the Jaghut circuit. One wonders what they trade to those “quite capable of conjuring food and drink [and one would perhaps assume much else] through sorcery.”

Boy, the Jaghut just never do anything halfsies, do they? How intriguing is this idea of abandoning a city, an ‘edifice to civilization unequalled anywhere in all the realms” and then going “oops” and walking away from it so fully it is now known as “The Empty City” whose sole occupant is the “Lord of Hate.” Tell me you don’t want to hear more about that!

Personally, the Jheleck don’t seem so bright to be pushing/threatening a Jaghut and calling him a “tusked fool,” particularly in his own tower.

We get a very nice, concise, efficient look at Korya’s potential by how she faces down Sagral—“his rage-darkened face, the gleam of his bared teeth and their sharpened tips” with even sharper wit: “Does this one need a leash?” Well played Korya. Well played.

But later we get much more direct awareness of “potential” when Haut says he has created a “mahybe. A vessel.” To be filled with what? To what end?

The lament of historians in all times and places: “What value history when no one heeds it anyway?” When will you people finally listen?!

Haut’s closing line to a pack of dog-like Sole-Taken: “So you twitch in your dreams.” God I love Jaghut.

It’s a subtle but highly interesting difference in how Korya and Haut view the idea of emptiness, with her equating emptiness with a kind of peace and he with a yearning.

This scene, beside obviously introducing characters and races, serves to emphasize yet again the degree of tension that is filing the stage. More reference to the impending Tiste civil war, references to past wars, tension between the Jheleck and Haut, between Sagral and Korya, between the Jheleck and the Tiste. And more things that seem to turn the world as once known upside down, show how things are in flux, unstable: Haut in his armor, Haut laughing, Jheleck appearing for the first time.

More familiar faces/names! Orfantal and Sandalath. This whole thing has the feel of a Thomas Hardy novel, or some sort of gothic story, what with the decrepit, falling down estate, the young ingénue single mother shamed by her family, the nasty village gossipers, the innocent bastard child, the drunken, one-armed grotesque father of the bastard, the killed-himself-in-the-house lord of the estate, and the steel-willed as god is my witness we will return to our former glory matriarch. Ok, if not Hardy, maybe Dallas.

The estate, the carriage, the family “fortune” all continue the theme of decay. While the reference to Gallan (our narrator recall) keeps the dissension thread front and center (And how quaint—the days when a published work by a poet “continued to foment outrage and heated condemnations”. Oh, we literaries can dream, can’t we?)

OK, we all know what happens to Orfantal, so this isn’t a strict one-to-one bit of foreshadowing, but it is interesting in a Tiste prequel to see someone repeatedly enacting a backstabbing betrayal.

Always the question of a society (or recently at) war—how do we handle those soldiers we sent out to kill? What do we do with them when they return? How do we treat them? What do we owe them? How have they changed? I really like that this very sharp, contemporary question is part of what lies at the heart of this story.

Poor Sandalath, always the hostage, never the…

Boy it’s hard to like Nerys in this scene. What with her “contempt” for her daughter, her lies, her harshness both in her speech and her interior monologues, her plans for her daughter’s son that she didn’t deign to consult with her daughter about.

An interestingly ominous bit of detail as she watches Sandalath drive off, with Nerys “chilled” and standing in “shadow.”

Sandalath man, you have to wonder if we’ll ever see her get a break. I like picturing her as child hostage infatuated with the three brothers and in particular Andaris, “the one she truly worshipped.” And again, we get a sense of better days gone by—“how could such things ever end?”

I’d like to think Nerys didn’t tell the truth to Sandalath about her father to spare her, but one wonders based on how she seems in this scene if it was that or merely to protect the family name. Perhaps we’ll find out…

So after that build-up by Sandalath to Orfantal about his father, is anyone taking odds on whether or not he meets his “dead” father, before or after being sent away? Not that I’m telling at this point…

This sense of tension is so incredibly omnipresent, so heavy. But it all makes sense, how could one live in this time and place and not be thinking all the time (or nearly all the time) about the possibility of civil war, about what is happening with Draconus, Mother Dark, the soldiers, etc.? Of course it weights on everyone’s mind. As it does on the reader’s.

It’s interesting that though the Tiste defeated the Forkrul, their ideas seem to have infected the Tiste like a virus. It will be interesting to watch that impact, especially knowing we’ve seen already, whether we know it or not, some of its result.

We’ve obviously met Hust blades before, and heard something about how they were made, so it will be interesting to see how this real-time creation matches up or not with what we think we know after all the ages and myths and legends.

This segment with Galar is a bit more expository than usual, filling us in on the Hust Swords, the war with the Forulkan, the rift between Urusander’s Legion and the Hust Legion (which can’t be good for a society on the brink of civil war), the origin of the “Andii” when Mother Dark took in Nimander’s sons and household and how the Hust Legion had become “Andiian” as well thanks to Rake’s support at the mines, the introduction of Toras Redone and Calat Hustain (whom we’ll see later), the Wardens of the Outer Reach (whom we’ll see later), the push for the political marriage between Urusander and Mother Dark, and MD’s willful, strong nature. For such a short section, we get a lot of basic background/world-building (in terms of society, characters).

We also get yet another reference to decay and self-destruction, as the forest they ride through is described as nearly a wasteland, with as many stumps as trees, and lacking mammals or birds. Kellaras’ thoughts about the forest’s name being ironic is one I’ve often had as I pull into treeless areas called “Corporate Woods” or “Linden Oaks” and the like.

You kind of wonder what to think about Kelleras, but he wins me over with how he takes pity on Galar Baras and makes him continue on with him rather than return too soon to “his office of misery”

As for that ending, well, we kind know what’s coming, don’t we? And what it will be called?

 

Amanda’s Response

The things that stand out to me concerning Korya Delath is how much the dolls and gods things are emphasised. She represents herself as a goddess over her dolls a number of times, and it makes her seem faintly manipulative? Also a little arrogant! Possibly that is just me. She’s clearly hugely intelligent and rather guarded in her approach to life. For me, it’s also quite dark how she looks back on her earlier life as being ‘another age’, and thinks about her dolls as hostages. It begs the question how much exchanging hostages (something done as a matter of course in Britain during medieval times) affected those children who had to leave their families and live in another place all on their own.

This line makes me think that man has been the same through countless years, except now it is smaller and on a more petty scale with the house next door: “…it seemed just one more of those pointless arguments neighbours fostered with each other, a stamping of feet and holding of breath…”

Imagine how this first meeting with the Jheleck must have been for a girl who has been trapped within this place since she was a child, who doesn’t even know what being Soletaken entails. Although Haut uses magic, it still seems that she takes in all these events very matter of factly, without fear or much emotion.

“It was, she often reflected, a wonder that he had ever accepted her presence, and the responsibility of taking her in.” Knowing what we do of the Jaghut, this clearly states that he has a specific purpose in mind for her. Later, this is confirmed, and his use of the word ‘mahybe’ reminds me of ‘mhybe’, which takes me back to Silverfox and her collections of souls within one body. Is that the future in store for Korya?

Gosh, some of Erikson’s writing can be used to reflect on society as it is now. How about this? “…even knowing a reasonable course was not enough to alter a mad plunge into disaster.”

Sagral really doesn’t seem the sharpest tool, seeing how he issues threats towards a Jaghut, who warns him clearly that all restraints will be removed if they are hounded by the Jheleck.

But it seems that intelligence—or, perhaps, understanding—is missing from all of them, given how they struggle to comprehend how hostages work and why it is needful. And then how Sagral states that the Jaghut are nothing. How wrong that is shown to be, over the course of ten books we’ve already read!

Hmm, Haut’s certainty that the Tiste will not erupt in civil war seems misplaced given what we have seen in the first two chapters.

If she is yearning, I wonder what it is that Korya needs?

I’m noticing that in the start of this novel, we’re being shown a number of children—all experiencing different circumstances. Not a one of them is shown genuine love and affection so far, though, which leads me to thinking about what effect this will have on them as they grow.

‘Fading glory’ is brought front and centre again with regards the Tiste—including a look at highborn society who might be facing war, but instead choose to be outraged about a work of literature. Seems almost like a head in the sand mentality, and clinging to that faded glory.

Ah, Orfantal: “Again and again, it seemed he was enacting betrayal, the knife thrust from behind, the surprise and hurt filling his eyes.” Nerys looks upon this as foolish. I look upon it as the possibly natural thoughts of a boy who has found no true friends, and who the whisper of bastard follows wherever he goes. Not exactly a wholesome environment to foster trust.

In fact, PTSD and depression have been shown pretty capably in some of what we’ve read so far. “The hero who returned—what cause had he to kill himself?” and “He had arrived home already dead.” Erikson cites the Vietnam war as a huge influence on his writing, and this must be a representation of how veterans from that war felt upon returning home to normality.

And wow, how self-absorbed is Nerys? Not an attractive character right from the get-go! It makes her comment “Do not be selfish, Sandalath” darkly amusing.

Oh, this is sharp and written very convincingly from the point of view of a child, with little actual understanding but still getting right to the heart of something: “Others bore no wounds but died with knives in their chests, as if the weapon had followed them all the way from those distant battles they’d fought in.” His grandfather, remember.

What is poignant to me while reading Sandalath’s fond memories of her time with Nimander’s sons as a hostage, is her drifting through the ruins of Kharkanas with her dark thoughts about being a hostage—it makes me wonder what is going to happened to her now.

It is a vast gulf between this Galdan that Sandalath thinks about and conveyed to her son, and the Galdan that Nerys reflected upon. In the spirit of the unreliable narrator, I doubt either presents the full picture.

And is it any wonder that Orfantal looks fondly on the idea of betrayal, considering the story he is told about his father?

What is this clay jar full of polished stones—stones of avowed love? Some mystery there.

Bless Ivis here—he is a lovely character.

And this picture of Galdan is saddening, and a combination of what Nerys and Sandalath believe of him. It is poignant recognising immediately what those stone were that he referred to, knowing that Sandalath carries them with him, while he believes that they have just been given to the refuse heap.

Huh, so the Assail were just the priests of the race?

“What worth peace when it was maintained by threat?” A question we should all be contemplating these days.

Galar’s section is exposition heavy, I agree, but seeing these haunted Hust swords, finding out where the term Tiste Andii came from, and seeing a moment of Anomander’s rare grace and humility in one so powerful are reward enough.

Isn’t this a moment of foreshadowing regarding Mother Dark? “So long as she remained, there would be no disorder, no chaos.”

I like the way that Kellaras thinks poorly of Galar’s, but then comes to a sudden realisation as to what Galar desires. It was interesting seeing Galar’s internal thoughts, seeing a gentle man given to introspection, and then Kellaras’ impression of him. Once again, a good view of how unreliable narrators can change a perspective.

And Anomander wishes to commission a blade, hmm? We do indeed know where that leads.

After training and working as an accountant for over a decade, Amanda Rutter became an editor with Angry Robot, helping to sign books and authors for the Strange Chemistry imprint. Since leaving Angry Robot, she has been a freelance editor—through her own company AR Editorial Solutions, BubbleCow and Wise Ink—and a literary agent for Red Sofa Literary Agency. In her free time, she is a yarn fiend, knitting and crocheting a storm.

Bill Capossere writes short stories, essays and plays; does reviews for the LA Review of Books and Fantasy Literature, as well as for Tor.com; and works as an adjunct English instructor. In his non-writing and reading time, he plays ultimate Frisbee (though less often and more slowly than he used to) and disc golf.

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